Tailoring PRINCE2® to Fit Your Projects

Tailoring PRINCE2 ensures that planning, control, governance and use of themes/processes are done correctly on a project.  Tailoring is done by the project management team to adapt the method to their specific projects, focusing on adapting the themes through the strategies and controls, incorporating specific terms and language, revising the management product and project role descriptions and adjusting the processes to match the tailoring that was done.

When determining the extent of tailoring required for PRINCE2 and the resulting project management documentation, your project’s level of work should be generally classified into categories based on your selected project criteria.  Here is one example of 4 types of project criteria that I consider as a starting point for making these decisions:  

  1. Internal effort involved in executing the project work, calculated in FTE.  This includes project management, technical work, planning and implementation 
  2. External costs involved in delivering the project results, calculated in dollars, such as for capital expenditures and third-party consultants
  3. Total duration of the project, calculated in units of time, ranging from weeks to months to years
  4. Business value of the project to the organization: minimal, normal or high.  This implies the visibility of the project within the organization and the associated level of risk.

An organization can build a project taxonomy across these categories to drive proper PRINCE2 tailoring activities for different projects.  There will be several areas of overlap between your four project types or categories (the ‘grey areas’).  Projects falling within these grey areas will require consideration, prioritization and contribution of work experience in order to decide which category of project to select and what version of your tailored method to follow.  When in doubt, I suggest that you default to selecting the larger, more significant project category.   Another approach might be to consult senior management or your PMO staff members for assistance and recommendations.

You will need to define the ranges for your project criteria.  My four generic project categories closely align with the PRINCE2 recommendations for tailoring the method.  The PRINCE2 project types are named the same as my example – major, normal, simple and service request projects.  Possible value ranges for my generic project taxonomy are as follows:

Major Project:

>750 hours Internal FTE, >$500K External Costs, >1 year project duration and high business value

Normal Project:

375-1000 hours Internal FTE, $250-$500K External Costs, 6-12 months project duration and moderate business value

Simple Project:

100-500 hours Internal FTE, $50-$250K External Costs, 1-6 months project duration and minimal to moderate business value

Service Request:

Up to 200 hours Internal FTE, Up to $100K External Costs, 1-6 weeks project duration and minimal business value

The total effort for major projects is typically estimated in many person-months and involves a significant investment of capital funds.   Characteristics of major projects in PRINCE2 include high risk, high cost, high importance and high project visibility within the organization.  These projects may span multiple organizations, be multi-disciplinary and perhaps even international in nature.

Normal projects span two or more management stages and require a reasonable mix of internal and external resources.   Characteristics of normal projects in PRINCE2 include medium risk, medium cost, medium importance, and medium visibility within the organization.  They may involve a commercial customer/ supplier relationship and span multiple sites, but they are less complex than major projects.

The total effort for simple projects is estimated in person-weeks and typically involves a moderate investment of capital funds. Simple projects tens to be low risk, low-cost, low importance, and lower visibility and are often confined to a single organization and/or a single site.

Support requests are managed at the work package level, involving client or technical support requests for existing systems. This work is regarded as maintenance activities needed to “keep the lights on” and uses the technical components of PRINCE2 to help get that work agreed-upon and accomplished.

There are a wide range of tailoring options that can be defined and implemented for the 4 PRINCE2 project categories.  Remember to align each option has been aligned with all required elements of PRINCE2:  the 7 themes, the 7 processes and the defined project management team roles and responsibilities!  And of course, make your taxonomy fit your organization, your levels of decision-making/accountability and the types of projects that you actually do.  If you can’t tailor your method to fit your projects, it just won’t work the way that it should!

Happy tailoring!

Susan Weese

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